Study Group 2


Dave Ficke (B)

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NOVEMBER 2020 ROUND
Title:    Baby Blue

Goal:   As the bluebirds baby were starting to fly around I wanted to get a shot of a young baby with all the fluff feathers    
 
Equipment/Source:     Nikon D500, 80-400mm lens at f8, 1/800 second and ISO 4000 using a tripod.
  
Technique:    Sitting on chair waiting for the bluebirds to land 

Processing:     Cropped from the right - was thinking of taking out the part of the branch that curved around but then though that the crop would be to tight and that the branch curves around and is a part of the photo. Sharpening and noise reduction

Score this image: YES

Comments/Scores (N, T, P, E, Total)

   Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)

Review by commentator Dan C.

From a nature story aspect, it is good for identification but does not say much about the behavior of the Bluebird Chick.  The down being apparently puffed up for warmth does add some story value but not really enough to go above a 2.

Technically you need to use some Shadow/Highlight adjustments to add some texture into the feathers that are washed our due to backlighting.  I used a separate layer in the attached example since normally the Shadow/Highlights is a destructive adjustment. You also need to apply stronger noise reduction to the background.  Do not use global noise reduction.  The feather textures would become even softer.  The technical score is only a 2. 

Pictorially I would normally prefer this flipped horizontal as in the attachment but in this case do not recommend it.  The curved branch stub becomes an obstruction instead of an effective leading line because of the lack of focus on the stub.   With the backlighting of the down feathers I am slightly bothered by the catch lights in chick’s eyes but then I have no idea of what is behind you to be reflected.  These pictorial issues results in a pictorial score of 2.

N2, T2, P2, E0, Total 6


This Review is written by: Alex C.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I too sit in my backyard as the little ones are born and begin their journey. I definitely see the excitement in the eye of the baby.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I love the pastel coloring in the background and the focus being on the bird itself. Yeah, that branch is a tough one, it is a bit distracting, but I do like that it's curve fits the curve of the bird. The feathers seem a bit out of focus and not as crisp as I'd like to see.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I like the baby bird l ooking i nto the center of the frame. I think the branch does take away from the composition a bit, though again, that's a tough call.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL: 8


This Review is written by: Bogdan B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Cute baby bird portrait.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Sharp and good lighted photo. Unsharp branch is a bit distracting.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I would make portrait orientation without branch.

NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 7


This Review is written by: LC B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I think this is a good capture of a fledgling bluebird. Because it is just a portrait shot though, I’m left wanting more story-wise just as the fledgling is left wanting more to eat.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Technically I think this image is well done. The bird’s face is sharp as are its feet. The tiny bit of of fuzziness on the chest feathers from the short depth of field works for me. Sure the floofy feathers might be crisper with a larger depth of field, but for me they make the imag e look a lmost painterly.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I’m not usually one for squarish-crops, but in this case I find it works as the line of the birds head, down through it’s body, across the branch to the broken bit draws my eye well across the entire image.

NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 8


This Review is written by: Adrian B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Judging from your last month's image, you like taking bird images - don't stop! I say this as I don't want to be partly responsible for you getting 'fed up' of always being told that there is no nature story - as here again, I see this as a bird portrait - albeit of a young one!

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I like your timing in taking this with the bird's head at an angle, showing attitude somehow - nice. The head is very sharp and clear. I'm somewhat confused as to why I don't feel the body feathers a re right - there seems no sharpness or clarity and I don't see why, so I cant suggest what is wrong - if indeed it is 'wrong'.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I agree you had to leave in the upright mini branch: I don't see this as distracting. But your bird is somewhat central and this isn't helping, so I would take some off the left - I consider this would improve it little.

Otherwise, I find this an average rather than strong pectoral image.

NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 7


This Review is written by: Suman B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
you achieved your target objective. But except for the fact that its a portrait shot I liked the baby blue personally.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I do not know why you stripped the image of its exif data but I consider it rather unusual. I must let you know this is not taken lightly in some competitions by the juries.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
except the odd stump creating a distraction otherwise the image is pictorially okay

NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of aver age strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 6












Upload Next Round's Image and Description
OCTOBER 2020 ROUND

Title:      Western Bluebird
 
Goal:     After having a total right knee replacement in September I was having some difficulty not being able to get out. My goal was simply to enjoy the birds. So with comfy chair, and tripod and another chair to keep my right leg elevated (which was very uncomfortable) I sat waiting for birds to show up.  
 

Equipment/Source:     Nikon 850, 400 f.8 lens at f4.5, ISO 280, at 1/1250
   
Technique:     Sitting in chair with leg up enjoying the afternoon

Processing:   Crop and angle shift, Sharpening and adjusted shadows.  

Score this image: YES


Comments/Scores (N, T, P, E, Total)

    Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)

 
Review by commentator Rick C.
A solid basic guidebook type portrait. It would be stronger if the Bluebird had given you a profile rather than looking right at you. This falls into the portrait category and the tightness of the shot keeps it from being a fully environmental portrait. The story is a strong 1 or weak 2 for me.

Focus and sharpness are good. The exposure is reasonable for the lighting, which was very harsh and contrasty. Tone mapping the image may help balance that out. The background is smooth but seems to have some mild pixelization which may be indicative of a significant crop from the original. In any event, it should be neutralized. Technical quality is rated as 2 for me.

The composition is very tight. While the harsh lighting provide impact, it also weakens the interest value for the image. The direct gaze and resulting hard shadow from the bill also lessen the interest value as compared to a profile view. The pictorial rating is a 2 for me.


Review by Robert D

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Very nice portrait

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The shadows are very dark. The beak blends into a dark shadow.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The bird is very central./ I suggest more room to either side and try to open up the dark areas. Hope you get up and about soon.

NATURE SCORE 1-Nature story minimal or contains unrelated hand of man

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 6


Review by Kathleen C.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Sorry to hear about your surgery and being a little laid up now. Hopefully you can be out and about soon. Your Western Bluebird is lovely but wish there was more action going on. I realize you could not stand up and were limited

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Again you could not get up but some shadows prevent the viewer from seeing all of the bird . Some of the details on wings could be sharper.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
It might be just my taste but I prefer seeing birds not looking straight at t he camer a. A head turned up or down from the side adds interest in my opinion.

NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 1-Inadequate composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 5


Review by Rick D.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Hi Dave. Your getting this nice shot while being laid up proves the old adage that you can’t keep a good man down! Good for you for being determined to get some action regardless!

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The tail feathers are not sharp. I see no movement, so it must be the DOF. I don’t know the distance of the shot, but feel that 6.3 or 7.1 would have given a better exposure. Love that technique of positioning yourself for some good photography.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The little birdi e surely had its eyes on you! I wonder if you could have taken a shot with the head towards the right margin, if you could have gotten a catch light. Also, as it is, the beak and its shadow run together. A turned head could have broken up that effect. Kudos for your perseverance!

NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 6


Review by Prasad D

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Its a great effort to capture this Cute Western Bluebird when in pain and out of Knee replacement.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The image seems soft an aperture one stop narrower would have got the correct DOF.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The Western Bluebird is facing the camera and hence the highlights seem to be missing in its eyes.

NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 1-Inadequate exposure

PICTORIA L SCORE< /strong> 1-Inadequate composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 4


Review by John E.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Nature story is minimal because there is no special activity.  I am  having trouble telling if the bird is singing which would help the story.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The bird is in bright sunlight which may have made this a difficult shot.  The strong shadow the beak casts is troublesome to me and there do  not appear to be any catch lights in the birds eyes.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Pictorially I enjoy that view of the bluebird.  For me the image lacks some "p op" and I wonder if the colors of the bluebird could have been brought out more effectively.

NATURE SCORE 1-Nature story minimal or contains unrelated hand of man

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 1-Inadequate composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 4


Review by Bruce F

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
This is a portrait and lacks a strong nature story. There is no behavior or much expression of life as there is little catch light in the bird’s eyes. The eyes are completely lifeless.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The dark areas around the three corners are distracting. Here the mind flows to the dark parts of the image or the darkest parts of the image. Instead of white visually distracting from a subject, black does this in this image. Using f4.5 doesn’t give you much depth of field, and depth of field i s lackin g in the wing feathers. Try photographing during cloudy times, because here the harsh lighting isn’t visually helping the image. Diffused light is “king”. Or photograph when the sun angle is lower, and the light is warmer, softer, and more pleasing.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The branch growing out of its head also problematic, especially since this part of the branch is very light—drawing the mind to it. Watch out for mergers. Position the perch horizontally, not coming toward you, thus, you’ll get side profiles of the bird, or the most pleasing position of it looking over its shoulder. Center positioning of the subject is very static, and works with some subjects but not usually for perched birds.

There is a whole art of setting up a backyard birding area for photography, with feeders, water baths, interesting perches, and good backgrounds. Do a little research, and look at other bird photographer’s work and images—be inspired.


NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 1-Inadequate exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 1-Inadequate composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 4

Dave Ficke joined the Mountain News in September of 2015 as a sports photographer, covering Rim of the World High School sports.  In 2017 he was asked to also write the sports articles to accompany his excellent photographs for the Mountain News.  This is his first professional job as a sports correspondent; additionally Dave has done other articles on human interest and the environment for The Mountain News.  

Dave graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a BS in Biology, earned his California Secondary Teaching Credential and taught high school college prep Biology, Physics and Field Biology in Upland, CA. He led field trips to Yosemite National Park for his Field Biology classes for twenty-seven years.  Dave also earned a Masters in Environmental Education and is currently retired from a career that spanned 33 years, teaching high school through college.  

During his time in the field of Education Dave has variously been the coordinator for the California Regional Environmental Education Network (CREEC) for all of Riverside, Inyo, Mono and San Bernardino Counties for over 20 years; he was a Teacher Ambassador for Cal Recycle, presenting professional development curriculum the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) to educators throughout California for seven years.  Dave was appointed by California’s State Superintendent Tom Torlakson to help develop The California Blueprint for Environmental Education for the State of California.  

Dave has retired from rock climbing and rapids riding, but still loves to hike and take backpacking trips.  His informal avocation for photography developed into a second career for Dave; he currently shows and sells his landscape and wildlife prints at The Mountain Arts Gallery in Lake Arrowhead. He has won various awards for his photographs from The Orange County Fair, Inland Empire Professional Photographers, and the Redlands Camera Club where he was president for two years.

Dave, his wife Kathleen, also a retired teacher and guidance counselor, and their two dogs, Jordie a golden doodle, and Cedar, a golden retriever, love to travel in their fifth wheel RV for weeks at a time.  Dave’s love of the outdoors and his passion for landscape and wildlife photography complement his love for the environment.